While Six Flags has Looney Tunes and DC characters, Cedar Fair parks have Peanuts, and Dollywood has, well, Dolly, parks like nearby Silver Dollar City do not rely on those characters for their draw. Yes, they've tried to entertain with their Lucky the Fire Dog, but that's not the reason that millions of people are attracted to SDC. They've also hosted temporary Nickelodeon, VeggieTales, and other characters, I'm fairly certain families would have still visited without them.
Still, I long for the days when Silver Dollar City had more roaming characters. It didn't matter what their names were. All I knew growing up was that they had personality and were hilarious. They were only partially scripted back then, and they were gifted at improv and working the audience.
So what characters are needed in the themed areas of American Heartland? There's no doubt there will be a need for employees to interact with the crowd if they are to germinate any kind of community culture in the park. So, here are some ideas of my own:
This is the easiest of the characters to create. Players can portray multiple characters with distinct personalities as the day progresses. I see people opening the second floor windows in Liberty Village and carry on friendly conversations over the crowds below. It's also easy enough to see the sheriff and the mail carrier walking around. Perhaps the mayor can make a speech, or as Silver Dollar City did decades ago, there could be a rousing political challenge for that role during election season. Really, the area is rife with possibilities for characters.
The Great Plains area is also pretty simple. The farm family in this area includes the old farming couple and their two grown children. Depending on the final layout of the park, there could be skits in the streets. Depending on what is planned, there could easily be locations in the farm house or in the barn where demonstrations can be presented by these characters. In fact, since it looks like there is a Charlotte's Web theme to the barn, those characters seem to be a lock for costumes to appeal to families.
Closer to the airplane hangars, there needs to be an adventurous barnstorming pilot whose over-the-top, cheesy presentation leaves crowds in stitches.
In the fall, this would be a nice place for some living scarecrows, perhaps on stilts.
Since Bayou Bay is the home of a pirate stunt show, why not place a funny pirate character or two there to perform skits and interact with guests between shows? They could perform closeup magic tricks themed to the area. I would think they would be distinguished from Disney's pirate characters, so some thought would have to be put into their presentation and personalities.
A Cajun character could also weave some tall tales centered around the bayou setting. As far as more fantastic characters, it would be possible to get a walking catfish costume for someone to wear.
In the fall evenings, the swamp monster emerges for photos and selfies with visitors.
The Timber Falls section of the park is the home of a mountaineer who has just come down from high altitude, telling tales of wildlife attacks and amazing discoveries.
Likewise, a prospector is in theme. Walking around with his mule (a personified costumed character), the prospector would entertain with stories and interactions with the guests.
Easiest to dream up is the idea that lumberjacks belong here. They'll perform in log rolling and lumberjack games, but there could be a Paul Bunyan here - a larger-than-life costume that talks to the audience.
After dark in October, guests can interact with Bigfoot.
Stony Point Harbor
Costumes in Stony Point might include a pair of dogs named Salty Dog and Sailor. Otherwise, an eccentric lighthouse operator could spin tales of shipwrecks and sea monsters. Other fantastic costumes could be a shark or a lobster.
After dark in the autumn, a couple of ghosts of the sea come on shore to play.
Electropolis is an area where a visionary scientist performs scientific feats on a regular basis. This scientist would entertain and explain in a fun and interesting way.
Once the sun sets in the fall, perhaps Dr. Jekyll comes out for a street show in which he transforms into Mr. Hyde right there on the street.
At the dropping of the ropes every morning, out come the Kitschy Characters from Route 66 parade above the crowds along the Route 66 speedway. Characters include the Gemini Giant, a giant ball of string, or the Catoosa whale, as well as a giant milk bottle and a giant catsup bottle - all representing roadside attractions. They all dance with the opening fanfare.
It might be interesting to have Santas from around the world represented, based on the locations from which people emigrated in each of the regions. In Liberty Village, the jolly old elf appears as a traditional department store Santa, and in Electoropolis, he appears in futuristic garb. Other characters, of course, appear as usual, but in seasonal costumes.